The Woman Who Married a Horse: Five Ways of Looking at a Chinese Folktale
Posted on 25. May, 2009 by James Miller in Animal-human marriage
|Title||The Woman Who Married a Horse: Five Ways of Looking at a Chinese Folktale|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||1995|
|Journal||Asian Folklore Studies|
This tale, first encountered in the fourth-century collection "Sou-shen chi," contains motifs from several disparate geo-cultural sources, but appears to have originated in China in response to a particular historical and religio-cultural situation. The tale is compared to the Swan-maiden folktale, the Dema-deity myth, and archaic hunting-culture containment tales that feature magical transformations by means of containment in an animal hide or feather-cloak. Multiple approaches are employed, including history of religions, literary-historical school of folklore, literary context, structuralist, and Freudian. It is argued that all approaches point to a process of tale formation that begins with a feminine/bird symbolism and ends with a masculine/horse symbolism as the means whereby the sacred transformation is accomplished. In addition, the tale functions as an etiological myth for the origin of the silkworm goddess and cult in China, and as a buttress for the patriarchal bias of Confucian-dominated Chinese culture.